MATTHEWS’ PICKS OF THE WEEK
1. After the weekend storm, the tilapia bite came right back on at the Salton Sea and this remains the No. 1 pick. An abnormally warm January has warmed up the sea enough to kick this bite into gear early. This same thing happened three years ago, and the action never slowed down. Anglers have been reporting 15 to 40 fish days and the fish have been running up to 1 1/2 pounds. Most anglers are fishing the Salton Sea State Recreation Area headquarters jetty or the jetty at the refurbished Salton Sea Yacht Club (just north of the state park headquarters). The bite has been exclusively on small nightcrawler pieces fished right on or near the bottom. For an update on the action, call the newly open Visitor Center (open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at 760-393-3810.
2. Trout action is universally good throughout Southern California’s planted lakes, but the two top picks remain Laguna Niguel Park Lake and Corona Lake. The usual array of small trout jigs, trout plastics, and floating dough baits are working at both lakes (all the SoCal lakes for that matter), but there are still people who don’t use light enough leaders to entice strikes. Think two to four-pound test, with lighter being better. For an update on these bites, call Laguna Niguel at 949-362-3885 or Corona Lake at 951-277-3321.
3. Diamond Valley Lake’s largemouth bass bite is staying in the top picks this week because the fish have continued to move up as though the spawn is about to being. The fish are showing in the backs of the coves on swimbaits, and then out if 18 to 25 feet on four-inch drop-shot plastics that sort-of imitate the sculpin in the lake. The biggest bass are coming on the bigger, trout-like swimbaits. Check with the staff at Last Chance Bait and Tackle in Hemet for an update on this bite at 951-658-7410.
FRESHWATER HOT SPOTS
TROUT: Trout action is about as good as it gets throughout Southern California with action at all of the stocked waters hitting the mid-season stride that translates into lots of limits of nice fish, along with the chance at a trophy fish. Top bets are western Riverside County’s Corona Lake, the Orange County trio of Laguna Niguel Park Lake, Irvine Lake, and Santa Ana River Lakes and both the High Desert waters of Hesperia Lake and Jess Ranch. In San Diego County, Poway, Jennings Cuyamaca, Morena, Dixon, and Wohlford are all pretty good bets. Other top bets include all the San Bernardino County Park Lakes. Check the water-by-water reports for details, but the bites are good just about everywhere trout are planted now. The sleeper pick remains the Colorado River from Laughlin to Big Bend where this season’s plants and holdover fish to six pounds are showing in good numbers. The Sierra general trout season is over, but fly anglers are experiencing excellent action in the year-around stretch of the Upper Owens on fish up to five or six pounds and the East Walker River has been very good, too.
BLACK BASS: Most of the lakes in the region are moving into a pre-spawn bite very early this year. Three patterns are worth noting. First, the warm weather has some fish up in less than 10 feet of water cruising around. This is especially true in lower-elevation waters like Lower Otay, Perris, Diamond Valley, and Casitas. Cachuma and Santa Margarita have also been improving. The early fish are usually bigger fish, too. Second, in lakes getting trout plants there are some bigger bass on trout-like swimbaits. This is best after DFG plants (because these trout are usually smaller than the fish from the private hatcheries). Last, the deeper water bass bite is pretty good for finesse anglers who know how to fish ice jigs, jigging spoons, and small plastics. So, that means you need to be prepared to fish from top to bottom. Top bet is probably Diamond Valley with the fish in eight to 30 feet, mostly feeding on sculpin right on the bottom in good cover.
STRIPED BASS: Striper bites all are very spotty right now. There are still fish showing at all the usual places -- Diamond Valley, Castaic, Pyramid, Skinner, and Silverwood -- but there are two types of action. There are some bigger fish up chasing trout in the top 20 feet of the water column or in water from 40 to 80 feet hanging on structure or under balls of bait. It’s usually bigger fish on the trout and smaller, school-size fish in deep water where they are showing on cut baits. Keep an eye on the trout plants and fish within the first two or three days after a plant. The top bet may be the California aqueduct near Taft, which has been producing a decent number from four to eight pounds. On the Colorado River, there have been a few quality fish to 20 pounds or better at Willow Beach. Havasu is fair in the main body of the lake and toward the dam and the fish are still focused on shad.
PANFISH: The Salton Sea tilapia bite has been getting better and better the last three weeks and was producing catches of up to 40 fish per angler this past week. It’s time. Top picks for crappie in a scanty field are Cachuma Lake, with a fair bite on quality fish over a pound, and Lake Silverwood off the marina docks. The Perris panfish bite is tougher again this week and there weren’t any crappie reports, but the redear anglers are still getting fish. Few other panfish bites are of note in this region. On the Central Coast, Lopez and Santa Margarita have been producing some quality crappie, but no big numbers, and these bites have slowed.
CATFISH: There continues to be reports of some nice catfish at Lake Skinner, but it seems like all the reports are coming from one angler with fish to 12 pounds reported. The Colorado River and local drainage ditches slowed with the annual drawdown of these canals, but the canals are back up, and there’s been fair action in the main river on channels. Flatheads are very slow but a few good fish were reported this past week.
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